The 47th annual March for Life took place in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24. The annual rally of pro-lifers from across the country took place just two days after the 47th anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade court case which monumentally legalized abortion in the United States. I'm often ridiculed for my profession and decision to put my body and health through three long days of pilgrimage-like conditions which I'm often told "won't make a difference." But when I'm engulfed in a sea of tens of thousands of people from the unborn to the elderly, it gives me a new hope and revitalization of my soul that keeps me coming back. That life has so many different looks and glories, how can we deprive anyone of that opportunity?
My journey to the March for Life began at my former high school, St. Francis in Athol Springs. I was chaperoning a group of 30 students as part of the school's Franciscan Youth Ministry under the direction of senior Religion teacher Rory Reichenberg. A new partnership with brother school Archbishop Curley in Baltimore, gave us a place to stay. So, we set off on the seven-hour journey to Maryland.
Early the next morning, thousands of teens, clergy and religious wrapped around the block of the Capital One Arena, barricaded by the police officers, waiting for the doors opening for a rally. The Youth Rally and Mass for Life has become a staple of student groups gathering in Washington for the March. Joyful teens and a sea of colors packed into the arena. While some made a dash for the confessional, others took the opportunity to catch 20 minutes of sleep or acquaint themselves with colleagues and friends. As I sat there quietly praying my rosary anticipating the beginning of Mass, I began to realize how much pressure sits on the shoulders of my generation and the next and we carry it so well. Everyone sits enthusiastically participating in every little chant or game the MC threw our way. These students were proud to publicly bear witness to Christ and the pro-life movement.
Following the rally, we departed for the National Mall to try and catch a glance of the first ever sitting president to attend the March for Life, Donald Trump. Just inside the row of metal detectors, thousands crammed in with American flags and Trump paraphernalia. The president came walking out after a marvelous crowd rendition of "God Bless America" to his spot behind the presidential podium enclosed with bullet proof glass. "I want to welcome tens of thousands - this is a tremendous turnout," Trump said, a minute into his speech. "Tens of thousands of high school and college students who take long bus rides to be here in our nation's capital. And to make you feel even better, there are tens of thousands of people outside that we passed on the way in. If anybody would like to give up their spot, we can work that out. We have a tremendous group of people outside. Thousands and thousands wanting to get in. This is some great success." What a success it was, everyone was attentively listening to the man who stood with them like no other lead had. "It made the trip worth it," explained the man standing next to me who came from West Virginia. "It's definitely a moment I will be able to tell my grandchildren about," I remember whispering to one of my fellow chaperones.
So, there we were, thousands of riled up pro-lifers ready to publicly demonstrate our beliefs in front of the whole country, reinvigorated after being publicly backed by our nation's leader. As I stood there, surrounded by friends, brothers and strangers, I began to appreciate just how life is so different for everyone and how everyone plays their own piece of the puzzle. The unique atmosphere created at the march for life every year from those who silently walk, chant prayers, singing "Freebird," or just strike up a conversation with a neighbor is all thanks to their parents' willingness to say yes to life. The march truly remains the most distinctive atmosphere I have encountered. It's the only place I know where strangers of all backgrounds can come together for a common purpose peacefully. I hate saying I'm looking forward to next year because I hope our efforts spark a change to the point where abortion is illegal and life is respected the way God intended it, but I'd miss getting together with Catholics from all over.
So why do I march? My dad told me one day about a poem called "The Dash" by Linda Ellis. It reads, "He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years." No one should be denied the opportunity to live their "dash." That is what I stand for.